Roadblocks and fences barred members of the GraceLife Church in Alberta, Canada from their worship building.
Faithwire reports that the closure was enforced by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) under the order of Alberta Health Services (AHS), "a government health agency of unelected officials." On Wednesday morning, members were prevented by the police from entry into their church property.
The police, however, did not have documents to present to justify the sudden shutdown, Rebel News' Sheila Gunn Reid tweeted.
GraceLife is being walled off by two layers of security fencing and a black tarp to obscure the entrance to the church.
RCMP and private Paladin security are here.
RCMP have no documentation to present to the church re:closure, but are keeping members off the property. pic.twitter.com/68E7ntCHVp
— Sheila Gunn Reid (@SheilaGunnReid) April 7, 2021
Representing the church is the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms. The law firm's president John Carpay said on Wednesday afternoon that the barricade was an unjustified violation of Charter rights and freedoms.
"The Alberta government has known for many months that it will be called to publicly account before the judiciary for its lockdown destruction of the Alberta economy and trampling of Albertan's civil liberties," said the lawyer.
"Freedom of conscience and religion is the first fundamental freedom listed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms." It is listed first because it is one of the key bedrock principles on which Canada is built, argues Mr. Carpay.
"The government has so far refused to justify the limits on worship and gathering. Health orders are inconsistent, differing from province to province, and arbitrarily created by one public health official who is under no obligation legally to advise the legislatures of the science and rationale which supposedly are the basis of the orders."
CBC News was able to obtain statements from both RCMP and AHS concerning the church closure.
RCMP confirmed to CBC that they closed the church under Section 62.1 of the Alberta Public Health Act. AHS, on the other hand, told the press that it '''physically closed" the church and has prevented access until the church 'can demonstrate the ability to comply with Alberta's chief medical officer of health's restrictions.'"
The GraceLife Church's counsel told CBC that the move was a "draconian and aggressive enforcement of health orders." Additionally, Justice Centre challenges in court the constitutionality of enforcing these health orders at the expense of violating charter freedoms.
"It shows a very aggressive government that is not answering questions about its policies, but wants to push its weight around and try and make an example out of GraceLife Church," added Mr. Carpay.
Prior to the "physical closure" on Wednesday, AHS said that it had taken steps by first asking the church to comply with the health order in the collective effort to lessen the risk of COVID-19 spread. On Jan. 29, they issued a notice of closure due to the church's non-compliance to the previous orders. Other follow-up letters were sent on March 27 and last week inviting the church's pastor James Coates to discuss the risk of infection in keeping in-person church meetings.
"GraceLife Church has decided not to follow these mandatory restrictions, nor have they attempted to work with AHS to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission," said AHS in a statement.
Their pastor, James Coates, was also jailed in February for refusing to comply with public health orders. He has just recently returned on March 28 and will undergo a trial on May 3.
"For the Alberta Government to request an adjournment of the May 3 trial of Pastor Coates is outrageous, while at the same time entering onto the church's private property and putting up fencing with hired security," states Mr. Carpay in the official statement released by Justice Centre.